Monday, August 13, 2012

CIA Students Help with CMC Exams

You've got Mail!

The CIA e-mail system is constantly aflood with e-mails containing invitations to help with various events. Sometimes off-site events need servers, wine pourers, or caterers. Other times a party of four is looking for a personal chef to cook for an event, or teach a class. Then there are those special e-mails that look for individuals to volunteer for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Chris Wegan happened to click on one of those e-mails, and was fortunate enough to participate in an amazing experience.

Chris, an Associates Culinary student, was one of the many people who answered the email asking for apprentices to work side-by-side with the candidates for this year’s Certified Master Chef exam.

After sending in several recommendations, writing an essay, checking his transcripts, and even making arrangements to switch his current AM class to PM, Chris was accepted as one of eleven apprentices. The apprentice’s job during the exam is to be the chef’s right hand man (or woman), and make sure that whatever he or she needs gets done on time and correctly, or it could jeopardize that candidate’s final product. Each apprentice was assigned several days out of the week-long, multi-day test, and were paired with a chef each day. Chris explained that each apprentice was assigned to a certain section of the kitchen for that day, and each CMC candidate drew a station number, thus automatically pairing them with an apprentice in the fairest way possible.

Chris Assists His Chef 
During The Exam

Testing days started very early, usually around 6am. First the apprentices and chefs would go over the menu for that day. They would check their rec sheets, make sure they had all of their product and equipment in line, and then began that day’s prep.  Apprentices did basic mise en place, such as chopping herbs and fabricating vegetables. The actual cooking part was, naturally, left to the CMC candidates. “We weren’t able to apply heat to anything. I couldn’t cook, turn on the stove, nothing,” Chris said. Each group was allowed in the kitchen for four hours to prep and cook, and then allotted a thirty-minute time window to present their food (requirements stated that each candidate must present four courses, each with four plated portions, as well as one platter-style plate containing six portions).

I asked Chris if he apprenticed because he was planning on taking the CMC exam in the future. Although he doesn’t have the desire to take the exam, it is clear that because of his past and culinary background, his respect for those that do plan on taking it, or have taken it already, is great. He has worked for several chefs that belong to the American Culinary Federation (the organization that administers the exam), which made him feel comfortable in the CMC kitchen. He also worked for a CIA grad that apprenticed in the past, who recommended that he take part in the experience, and was one of the main reasons that he applied.

A Chef Directs His Apprentice On How to Plate

Now what does it take, exactly, to apply to be an apprentice? What can you learn from an experience like this? “The type of person who goes for the CMC and who wants to apprentice is looking for every opportunity to learn and push themselves to do something interesting,” describes Chris. “It pushed my stress level, and I know that I can handle that level of stress now. You really get to see how people react under pressure.”

The CIA provides students with so many different chances to take part in amazing events, cook beside world-renown chefs, and go to some pretty cool places. I am a personal example of this, and I have taken part in so many cool events (Bocuse d'Or, James Beard Awards, International Chefs Congress), simply because of my affiliation with the CIA and my status as a student.

I hope that you, too will be able to take part in events such as these in the future. You never know when opportunity will come knocking!!!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

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